Fora Financial's Local SEO Checklist for Small Businesses
Local SEO is a strategic approach to emphasizing search engine optimization efforts on a targeted subset. By conducting local SEO strategies, you’ll be focusing on the geographic audience that’s near your brick and mortar business.
For example, a doctor based in Minneapolis that wants to localize keywords should focus on optimizing their site. They could try and improve search rankings for keywords like minneapolis doctors, doctors in minneapolis, and best doctors in minneapolis. In addition, they could try to rank for searches like doctors near me when the visitor is near Minneapolis.
Local search is an absolute animal. Dominating local results with your web presence can be a big challenge. Due to this, many business owners hire a local SEO company to help them. By hiring a local SEO agency, they can do the heavy lifting when it comes to implementing long term strategies.
However, if you can’t afford to hire outside local SEO services, we can help. In this post, we’ll review how you can create and manage a local SEO strategy.
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Optimize Title Tags
Your website’s home page should have a concise title tag that includes the target keyword you want to rank for. This goes for all inner pages as well.
For example, this article should rank for the keyword “local seo checklist”. As such, the title tag is Fora Financial’s Local SEO Checklist for Small Businesses.
Keep URL Structure Concise
It’s important to note that both search engines and visitors like shorter URLs. Straightforward URLs are not only more friendly to search engine crawlers, but they are also easier for visitors to remember.
Optimize Images for Site Speed
Substantial image files will cause your site to take a long time to load. If your website is hosted on WordPress, there are image optimization plugins like Smush Image Compression and Imagify that make this a breeze. However, if you aren’t running WordPress, online tools such JPEG Compressor work wonders as well.
The items that appear on your navigation menus (primary, secondary, and footer, among others) should be indexable by search engines. Not doing so can negate any structure you have developed for your website.
Consistency in NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
Your small business’ name, address, and phone number should be displayed on your website. In addition, keep this information consistent across all directory and maps listings. Also, ensure that this data is found in the Contact page on your site.
Inconsistent information can lead to mismatches across rankings and decrease trust in your website. If you have multiple locations, make sure you’re clear on which information coincides with each location.
Utilize Structured Data
Schema markup is something that many local business websites fail to utilize properly. Get ahead of your competitors by using structured data and schema markup for a boost in search engine optimization. For more information about schema markup and structured data, see this guide straight from Google Developers.
XML sitemaps allows Google to find your website, improve rankings, and crawl pages for new or updated content. Here is more on sitemaps, from the most popular SEO plugin on the web.
Create and Claim Your Google My Business Listing
This may be the most essential step in your local SEO strategy. Ensuring you are listed in Google Maps will help with many things. This includes a presence in Google’s knowledge panel and the potential of appearing in the Map Pack for your specific market.
Ensure Google Data is Accurate
An extremely detailed Google My Business listing will ensure that any information that a potential customer needs is readily available. This also helps you to get your business noticed in comparison to competitors who may not have a comprehensive listing.
Carefully Choose Categories
When creating or claiming a Google My Business listing, you will be asked for the categories of your business. Currently, you can select up to six, including one main and five additional categories. Choose your categories carefully, as it will assist your small business in ranking for more specific local search keywords. Solid Stratagems has the most comprehensive list of categories available.
Utilize Google’s SEO Analytics Tools
Google’s two main SEO tools are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools (now referred to as Google Search Console). Search Console assists to track website performance. Google Analytics can assist you with analyzing website traffic and data far better than any other internal or external site tool.
Make Mobile A Priority
According to recent news, Google has started ranking websites that are mobile-friendly higher than those sites that aren’t. Having an up-to-date website will help you surpass competition whose sites may be older and not as mobile-friendly. Google has a convenient test that reveals if your site is optimized on mobile devices.
Business Directory Listings
Claim or Create Bing Listing
Bing is more important than you may realize. This is because being listed in Bing will help you attract visitors that don’t use Google for their local searches. This will, in turn, generate additional leads and customers for your business. Use Bing Places for Business for this process.
Claim or Create Listing in Yelp
Yelp is the bane of existence for any small business owner who has faced a negative review on their platform. While they may seem predatory, they’re still the big kahuna for potential customer trust. Currently, Yelp is the most popular independent site for user reviews of local services and businesses.
Claim or Create Listings in Other Directories
Business directories go far beyond big names like Google, Bing, and Yelp. It’s crucial to add and update listings in all possible directories to increase your business’ chances of being discovered.
Make Sure Current Listings Are Up-To-Date
Create a spreadsheet of what listings you own and operate. This will assist in ensuring that updates and changes to information are consistent across all platforms. Examples of information to monitor include holiday business hours, changes in contact information, and website URLS. Utilizing tools such as Yext make this a one-click process.
Developing citations work similarly to listings on local business directories and industry directories. In addition to providing real estate in the local search space, citations can increase the referral traffic that your website generates.
The three steps that are important to manage the citation development process are properly:
- Create high-quality and informative web citations
- Check citations of competitors to find where they are, and repeat step one in those spaces
- Remove duplicate citations to ensure a “one source of truth” approach. This also ensures search engines don’t get confused about specific details of your small business
All business directories count as citations, however not all citations are business directories. Moz, a powerhouse of the local SEO space offers this insight.
“A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms.”
Customer Testimonials and Reviews
Managing customer reviews and testimonials is crucial to the local online reputation management process. Still, it’s important to tread a fine line when responding to both positive and negative customer reviews.
First, make sure to monitor reviews regularly across many platforms. Replying to these reviews can help you build relationships with current, past, and potential customers.
Use your customer service knowledge to determine when to respond and when to ignore a review. Some negative reviews are bait material. At times, responding to these negative reviews may fuel the fire and cause them to appear more prevalent than positive reviews. To learn more about how to respond to negative reviews, check out our guide here.
Also, be on the lookout for opportunities to generate additional reviews, cultivated from a variety of locations. Obtaining more positive reviews can improve your business’s overall rating on various platforms and even attract more customers.
Finally, testimonials that stand out above the rest should be highlighted. Prominently displaying reviews from existing local customers on your website helps to improve your small business’ credibility. In addition, it shows that you care about customer opinions.
Content and Link Building
Content is king, which is why local content writing services are readily available. Website content is the number one driver for organic rank in 2019 and beyond. Due to this, you’ll need to optimize your website accordingly.
Ensure that you have no duplicate content on your site. Duplicate content penalties have ruined small businesses without them even realizing it. When you publish duplicate content or post content from elsewhere on the web, search engines get confused. Because of this, they won’t know which version to include in the index of searched terms.
Building high quality backlinks will help your site gain higher domain authority. In turn, this can lead to higher rankings for search terms, stronger web traffic, and increased revenues. Webris has some incredible link building strategies and case studies for the upcoming year.
Why The Local SEO Checklist Matters
Local SEO can make or break a small business in a competitive local landscape. Well-managed local search engine optimization is a trigger point for cascading into the next level of revenues for your business. Higher presence in search results puts you ahead of your competition in a highly difficult global marketplace.
Still not convinced of the importance of local SEO on your small business? Look at these aggregated stats from marketing juggernaut HubSpot. Local search terms are rising exponentially. Following the steps above will help ensure you stay ahead of the pack.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.